The Absurdity of Cloud Computing and Hosted Services

I’ve seen some crazy things in the IT world in the last 5 of my 20 years of experience in the field, but the push to move to cloud computing and hosted services has got to be the craziest thing I have seen so far. Please let me explain.

Times are bad right now, and companies are making hard decisions about their IT staffing and services. Somehow in the last 5 – 10 years or so, IT support seems to have gone from a mission critical status to being considered overhead. As other departments have had to do, significantly reduced IT departments are now supporting more devices, services and people with fewer staff.

As with other departments, older IT staff members have been “encouraged out the door” and replaced with fewer, lesser experienced staff. I have seen Unix server administrators put in charge of administrating Windows servers, even though they had no experience supporting them. Not sure of the executive thinking there – they are both servers, so they must be the same?

I have seen a high end Windows cluster server administrator who kept the executive and top engineering clusters of a major corporation running for years, be moved to be the sole support person for the corporate wide NAS servers. Though he had little to no experience with the NAS servers themselves, the storage group was dissolved beforehand and the one person remaining that he was replacing had already been placed in a new position, so there would be no training available. He was handed a user manual and told – “Good luck”.

I have seen a half empty building that was once full of corporate IT support staff. This was after several other buildings that were full of IT support staff were dissolved and consolidated into the one building. One part of the support staff that remained was told that their work week would be changing to a swing shift. They would be working 2nd shift for part of the week and 3rd shift for the remained of the week. The supervisor had the audacity to tell these former 1st shift workers that the new schedule would be better for their families.

I was told once by a distraught IT Director that he was informed by the corporate executives that the acceptable level of IT staff to employees is now 1 to 300. With all of these employees using computers or mobile devices, what happens when more than one critical system goes down at the same time? What happens to the quality of support when IT staff is flooded with requests and “emergencies”?

These are just a few things that I have seen or heard in the last few years, trust me there are many more. But what does these cutbacks and shifting of unqualified staff to critical positions have to do with cloud computing and hosted services?

Many companies are turning to online services to help cut costs and restore some level of IT support to their organizations. But what truly makes you think that these online services are not going through the same internal cutbacks and employee changes to cut costs of their own? How secure will your information really be with them? Your level of support?

If you can’t support your own IT, and who knows your business better than you, why would you think that external services can really do a better job? Don’t get me wrong, cloud computing and hosted services aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But making the decision solely for additional profit is not a wise move. Executive level decision makers really need to talk with (and listen to) their senior IT leadership to see if the move to hosted services would truly be a benefit or detriment to their company.


3 thoughts on “The Absurdity of Cloud Computing and Hosted Services”

  1. Hmm… I’m not sure I agree with you here man…

    You know I hate the cloud! (in some ways). Here is the thing though, support isn’t what drives the IT industry. Technology is transient, whatever you want is available as a service now. BSaaS? That isn’t really all that different from where it was 10 years ago. What drives the IT industry is data, and right now ‘big data’ is REALLY FREAKING BIG.

    For large corporations, explosion into the cloud for things like data mining and grid processing is a wise investment. They could neither afford the infrastructure or support staff to do that type of processing on premisice.

    Now does that cut back on IT staff? Maybe to an extent, it really relocate them. Sure there will probably be fewer SAN admins in the world. Windows admins are SOL because DB and data processing have always been a UNIX world and will be for the foreseeable future.

    Now, another point you brought up “IT Generalization” I think is a different can of worms, and anyone working in the industry can feel the pain from that. That I think is driven by the economy and people with less experience ‘but just enough’ willing to work for less. I’m not sure it has anything to do with the “cloud” concept or infrastructure as a service.

    1. Great comments my brother. I honestly have to admit this article was more of a rant than anything else, and I almost deleted it after I posted it, lol.

      Surprisingly, it did very well on Infosecisland. There was some great interest and comments there:

      I watched a briefing on “Big Data” a couple weeks ago put on by Cisco and the head of the CIA’s IT team. It was very interesting. They are using the cloud for some cool stuff.

      But I must say that there was a lot of boasting about the “Big Data” system uptime. I visited three of the numerous sites that they mentioned and they were down…. 🙂

  2. Well unfortunately, “big data” as cumbersome as it may be is a necessity we’re not getting around in the forseeable future.

    I say for some applications embrace the cloud!

    For instance Thin clients! Amazing for centralized desktop support, and portability in a diverse shop (running many platforms)

    Or explosive grid processing. Heck, if you’re parsing PB’s of data cloud is ideal. For small IT Services shops (which may not be around for much longer) cloud is probably not necessary.

    I think the benefit of services like AWS or similar is that they give the “little guy” the ability to plan to be the “big guy” but only pay for what they’re using. That’s a hard argument to resist for any company of any size.

    Then again, cloud is a super generalized term for everything from distributed computing to (x)aaS. It really depends on application and implementation of the architecture, but doesnt’ everything? lol

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